It’s called “The Good Boss” and it broke all records. At the Goyas, the biggest awards in Spanish cinema, Fernando León de Aranoa’s film received an impressive 20 nominations – no production had ever equaled that number. In addition, it was the film chosen to represent the country at the Oscars.
O Bom Patrão opens in Portuguese cinemas this Thursday, January 20th and stars Javier Bardem as the protagonist. He owns a factory in a provincial town. The comic and satirical story explores the power these characters hold in their local communities, with many ‘grey areas’ in between. There really is no good or bad here.
It’s the latest film to catch the eye of Javier Bardem, who began his career in the late ’80s while still a teenager – after all, his entire maternal family worked in the area. Over the years he has solidified and presented himself better and better to international audiences, in 2000 for his role in Julian Schnabel’s Before Nightfalls, which earned him an Oscar nomination.
Since then he has become an icon and a true Hollywood star. In 2007, he played the psychopath Anton Chigurh in This Country Is Not for Old People, a Coen brothers film—the first Bardem filmed with an all-foreign, English-speaking crew.
The actor didn’t particularly like the experience – he has feared violence since he was involved in a serious brawl at a bar, the same one that broke his nose, which became a unique physical trait but also the focus of several insecurities . But it was the role that earned him the Oscar and that changed his career and finally internationalized his work.
For many years, Javier Bardem was best known to the general public for his villainous roles. He was an iconic antagonist in the 007 saga, in Skyfall. He would later be an undead villain in the popular Pirates of the Caribbean saga.
There weren’t many roles, but all had a major impact and helped cement him as the perfect actor for these types of characters – despite Bardem having a diverse and extensive curriculum. One of the next characters he will play will be Frankenstein’s Monster, in a project that hasn’t even started recording yet.
However, in recent years, Javier Bardem has taken on a number of different roles. And perhaps most responsible for that are her children with Penélope Cruz: Leo, ten years old; and Luna, eight.
The movie-star couple are known for keeping their lives fairly private — there are even few public photos of Bardem and Cruz’s children. In a GQ article published in December, the actor said one of his favorite things to do with his kids is drawing.
“They both draw beautifully for their age,” he said. Bardem studied painting in his youth but never made a career in the field. Still, it may have passed on the genes of taste (and talent) for the visual arts.
In the same article, Bardem assumes that the children have influenced his career in recent years. Also because the actor has mainly made a journey through films that are not yet to be seen by Leo and Luna.
This may have been one of the reasons that prompted the Spanish actor to do something he’s not used to and “ashamed” of doing. This was a message to director Rob Marshall to see if he might be looking for an accented King Triton for the new live-action version of The Little Mermaid.
Rob Marshall liked the idea and responded enthusiastically. Javier Bardem was having breakfast with his family when he received the answer. “And I was like, ‘Wow, guys, I could do The Little Mermaid.’ And my daughter said, ‘But you can’t be Ariel!’ And I: ‘No, no, no. I won’t be Ariel, I will be King Triton. And they were so excited.”
“It’s a father who is gripped by a deep love and a sense of belonging for his daughter and coming to terms with the fact that she is having to leave the nest and who as a man and protector cannot cope and is unable to give give her the space she deserves, the space she should have as a woman, as a girl, as an adult,” Bardem reflects. The film will premiere in 2023.
Shortly thereafter, he recorded an adaptation of the children’s book Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile. Javier Bardem had just finished filming Being the Ricardos – where he plays Cuban actor Desi Arnaz, opposite Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball, and where he had to sing and dance – and he was tired. But the children convinced him to accept the role.
“I said: I’m being offered this film with a crocodile in which I sing and dance. And their faces both said: With a crocodile, father? You have to do it.” And so, Javier Bardem taught a special effects crocodile to dance and sing. “It’s artistically so open and free. It was very liberating.”
They met in the early 90’s and made many films together.
The children’s approval was something very present. Last year, Javier Bardem took his son – the eldest of the two – to check out the new Dune, where he plays a minor character (who will be far more relevant in the announced sequel).
“It was the first film where I took my 10-year-old son to the cinema with popcorn to introduce him to what his father does for a living. I felt so ‘wow, honored’ that I asked him if he enjoyed it.” And Leo, of course, loved seeing his dad on the big screen. “I was very proud to be able to show my son what I do. And to be approved by him.”
This is especially relevant since Javier Bardem is one of those actors who hate to see himself in the cinema – he never looks at the projects he takes part in. Bardem had many insecurities about his performance and appearance, and even felt depressed after seeing his roles on screen. That slowly changed when he teamed up with Penelope Cruz.
“[De repente] There was something so much more exciting, bigger and more important than being in a movie. And I was happy to say: I’ll do my best, but that’s not the most important thing.”
Also, read the story of how Javier Bardem’s broken nose affected his career (and life). And learn about the love story between the actor and Penélope Cruz – the two met in a film in the early ’90s.
Click the gallery to see more films premiering in 2022.